One of the real joys of eating at a good restaurant is, of course, the actual eating. Imagine a thick slice of cinnamon apple pie or a steaming bratwurst or some spicy Korean barbecue, the aromas rising warm and rich, wafting to your senses. The anticipation of the taste swirling across your tongue — eating such food is a singular delight. But doesn’t a lot of the sweetness of the experience occur after you have eaten, when you lean back after that last bite, full and satisfied, with your face and your belly smiling happily?
That after-meal delight is the experience of savoring, a word we should get to know. To savor something is to "taste and enjoy it completely." But in ministry, we often neglect this, which is similar to eating and running — we miss out on so much of what makes the experience unique. We tend to invest a lot in leading a small group, or preparing for worship, or coaching others in evangelism, and when we are finished, we just move on to the next thing. We don't take time to savor the experience.
Savor a Completed Year
Many of us have just finished a good but tiring year of academic work and ministry. Perhaps we have just come back from a week of chapter training, or meeting with a leadership team for planning, or encouraging a faculty member in her research. This doesn't include the amount of energy spent earlier in the year, when we likely invested lots of energy in outreach, seeking justice, counseling a friend, or completing our dissertation. Did you ever stop to savor those experiences? I recall a time when my team had worked very hard on putting together a Fall Conference that God used mightily. A friend of mine said, as we were leaving, "Make sure that you take time to savor work well done." Savor work well done... that was a new thought. It seemed vaguely self-serving; isn't the godly thing to do to say, "It was all God," and to get back to work?
I don't think that any longer. I think savoring a ministry effort has nearly as much value in God's eyes as preparing for it. After all, that's what he did after six long days of making the cosmos — he rested from all his work. Creating mountains and meerkats, planets and pumpkins, black bears and black holes would be very hard work. But before he rested, Genesis tells us he looked, he considered, he beheld, the work he had done. And having looked, really looked, he prounounced it good. He beheld, and he enjoyed — in other words, he savored.
The incarnate Jesus also took time to savor work well done. In Luke 10, after he sent out 72 followers to preach and heal, they return with amazement saying, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!" Jesus' response was to connect their experience to God's larger purposes by saying, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven." And then we read these words: "At that time, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children.'"
What is this but the Trinity, with the disciples, savoring work well done?
How to Savor Good Work
Following their example, how can we learn to savor our work? First, we take time to do it. As easy as this sounds, it is probably the hardest part. Include time to savor the work as part of your preparation process. Second, use that time to behold and rejoice. What does this look like? It looks like reviewing the work, reporting on it and celebrating it. It is not primarily about evaluating it, though that's important too. This is specifically about rejoicing, digesting, and feeling satisfied. InterVarsity people don't tend to do that well. Finally, it is giving praise to the Father, as Jesus did, connecting the work to God's greater purposes, and hearing the Father's thank you, his joy with us in the co-laboring.
The next time you sit down to a good meal, take time to look and smell it before you take the first bite; afterward, take time to savor its aromas and unique tastes. And when you finish the next ministry project, take time, precious time, to savor the miracle of work well done in God's kingdom.